Data Breach Battles, What's A Consumer To Do?

After the Breaches, What Comes Next?


It's been a tough few months for some of the biggest names in the retail world. Starting in December, we've seen a rash of data breaches that put consumer information at risk. Target, PF Changs, and now Home Depot have all been affected.

Ruth to the Rescue found Home Depot customers in Allen Park are concerned about the security issues, but prepared to be vigilant. "I'm thinking I should check my accounts, my bank account like every day," said Tracy Pilcher of Detroit as she left the store, having just used her credit card.

That's a step in the right direction, but can retailers and financial institutions do more to protect your accounts? The answer is yes! Companies in Europe and Canada are already using payment cards with "Chip and PIN" protection.

"With a chip and pin card the information in the card is encrypted and can only be unlocked with your PIN," says Odysseas Papadimitriou, the CEO of CardHub.com. He explained that in the United States we use cards with magnetic stripes. The information on those stripes can be stolen and replicated by anyone with a magnetic reader.

Why are American customers still using the swipe method?

"We have not brought it stateside because there is an inherent cost to send out new cards, and make sure the cards get to the right person," said Melanie Duquesnel, the CEO of the local Better Business Bureau.

Duquesnel and Papadimitriou that retailers and financial institutions have been doing the cost-benefit analysis and the losses to fraud used to be fairly low.
However, starting with the Target data breach in December, that calculus may have started to change. Hackers are gaining access to millions of pieces of
data, and that can get expensive.

"Retailers will now be pushing credit card companies for the technology because they are , to a big extent, liable when these things happen," said Odysseas Papadimitriou, the CEO of CardHub.com.

Consumer are also losing patience. "We're so far behind, behind the eight ball it's not even funny," John Katakowski of Allen Park told Ruth to the Rescue.
"Go with the newest technology out of Europe with the chip because it's hard to counterfeit, that's just common sense."

"There's a lot of things that we should be doing that we're not!...The sooner we do that the better," said Tracy Pilcher of Detroit.

While many experts think the "Chip and PIN" technology will be an improvement, no system will be fail-safe.

"Fraudsters and hackers and criminal will never go away," warned Papadimitriou.

Protection Yourself, Protecting Your Accounts

No matter what technology is supposed to be protecting you, it's still a good idea to protect yourself. Most of us enjoy the convenience of credit cards, but
now we have to accept the responsibility of making sure our information and our money is protected.

Working with the experts at the Better Business Bureau and CardHub.com, here are some of the steps all consumers should take all the time, not just
when they fear their information has been compromised.

*Monitor account activity closely. It can be daily, weekly, or less often, but you shouldn't wait for your statement each month to see what's happened to our account.

*Set fraud alerts on your accounts, so you'll be notified if there is any suspicious activity.

*Change passwords on any cards that you think may have been compromised.

*Beware of any phishing emails from scammers. They may try to trick you by offering to help with your account. They're just phishing for your personal information. And, NEVER click on links from emails unless you're 100% that you know where they're coming from.

*If you're looking for new information about a breach, make sure you're clicking on the legitimate website of that retailer.

*Of course, if you see fraudulent activity report it to your financial institution as soon as possible. Your protection could be limited if you wait too long to report the problem.

Finally, there's really no need to panic when you hear about the security breaches that have plagued retailers in the past 10 months. Instead, form good
habits that will keep your accounts safe all the time.

That's advice Melanie Duquesnel, CEO of the local Better Business Bureau, offers, and follows herself, "I'm diligent. I'm watching. So, if something does
pop up, I have the means to react."

You can read ever more information on protecting yourself at the Better Business Bureau and Card Hub.